Legislators consider sale of certificate
PENN YAN—On Thursday, July 14, Yates County Legislators voted to authorize the ad hoc committee investigating sale of the certified home health agency operating certificate to undertake negotiations with two companies that responded to the county’s request for proposals. Legislator Steve Webster cast the lone no vote. Legislators James Multer and Leslie Church were absent. The vote concluded several months of study on the issue.
Just before the vote, Legislature Chairman Taylor Fitch addressed the board. He said, “Many people have used Yates County Home Health services and I have never heard anything derogatory about our services. It is recognized as one of the best.” Fitch said the agency had made money in some years. Answering why sale of the operating certificate is being considered, Fitch said, “Covering our costs is much less certain in the future. New York State is raising costs to counties and it is accelerating. The question for this legislature is how much of a tax burden can county residents bear?”
Prior to the vote, several individuals spoke about their reasons for opposing sale of the operating certificate. Home Health Agency staffer Kathy Swarthout said the agency is becoming dangerously understaffed. County resident Gene Spanneut asked legislators to look at all programs for viability, success and impact on the community. After calling it a “monumental decision,” Ann Murphy asked legislators how many Yates County citizens legislators had approached to get a good sampling of opinions. Anne Marie Flannigan said she feels the size of the sample of people contacted is too small. A petition asking the county to retain ownership of the operating certificate was presented to the legislature earlier this year. It contained 1,000 signatures.
Legislator Douglas Paddock chaired the ad hoc committee. During the meeting Paddock said, “I want everyone to be assured this is not being taken lightly. I am asking for the ability to negotiate further to get clear answers. We need the best answer and the best result for all concerned.”
In October 2010, there was general discussion of the topic. In March an ad hoc committee was formed. Multiple public comments were made at a Human Services Committee meeting in April. Two special meetings of the Yates County Legislature were on July 11 and 14. On July 14, legislators voted to authorize the ad hoc committee to undertake negotiations with two respondents to Yates County’s request for proposals.
Finger Lakes Visiting Nurse Service and Lifetime Care are the two agencies that will be involved in negotiations. Both are not-for-profit companies that currently serve counties in the Finger Lakes area. A third respondent to the county’s request for proposals, HCR, is a for-profit company. This company will not be contacted.
Services provided under the current Home Health Agency operating certificate include skilled nursing visits, home health aide visits and personal care aide assistance. Several other services provided by Yates County Public Health are not included in the operating certificate. Some of those services include:well-child visits, clinics, such as rabies and flu clinics, health education, early intervention services and coordination and the physically handicapped children’s program.
The focus of negotiations will be on four issues:
• Continued level of patient care
• Continued employment of personnel affected by the sale of the certificate
• Minimizing the effect of benefits change on the affected personnel
• Optimizing all of the above with management contract and sale price.
Following the July 14 meeting, Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy said no information regarding financial matters will be available until negotiations are complete. If one of the two agencies purchases the operating certificate, financial information will be provided.
The committee will present its findings and recommendations at the earliest opportunity, but in no case later than Sept. 12.